By Author / Illustrator
Dan Smith, Chris King
Mystery & Detective
Barrington Stoke Ltd
Paperback / softback
Something sinister is happening in Crooked Oak ... Ever since the fracking site closed, Nancy's parents have been acting weird. Their eyes are blank, they won't eat - it's like they're no longer themselves. And now the symptoms are affecting others as well ... Nancy and her friends Pete and Krish are determined to find out what's going on. But the deeper they dig, the scarier the mystery gets. A dark presence is spreading its tendrils across Crooked Oak. Can they stop it before it takes over the whole town?
The Invasion of Crooked Oak is an exciting story combining adventure, science fiction and more than a smattering of horror. Best friends Peter, Krish and Nancy live in the village of Crooked Oak where life is usually quiet and uneventful. The children love to read about weird events on their favourite website, The Mystery Shed. They used to love playing in Carpenter's Field, but it is now out of bounds because a fracking site has opened up there. Nancy's mum used to work there, but opposition from some of the villagers has recently led to the site being closed down.
Nancy tells her friends that she is concerned about her parents - they are acting very strangely. The keep the curtains closed, leave the house during the night, and always have the heating turned up to unbearable levels. They have also stopped eating, only having sips of water. This all began after the fracking site closed. The children decide to investigate and soon discover that Nancy's parents are not the only people displaying unusual behaviour. So begins a thrilling adventure as the children uncover the horrific and dangerous goings on at the unused site.
As well as giving us an exciting and well written story, the author cleverly educates us about fracking and its possible implications. He does so by explaining fracking through the device of a geography lesson at the children's school, so it does not feel as though we are being preached at, but are being informed in a clear and simple manner.
The characters are well drawn and are all likeable, there is humour in the book as well as some incidents which are quite chilling - the descriptions of 'dead eyed' and emotionless adults, and the eerie screeching as they call to one another, are incredibly atmospheric. The illustrations, by Chris King, are very effective and perfectly complement the story.
This book is part of the Barrington Stokes' excellent dyslexia-friendly books - the colour of the paper, the font and typesetting are all aimed at helping the dyslexic reader to discover the joys of reading. However, as a former school librarian, I know that these books are not just for the dyslexic reader, important as that is. They are short - The Invasion of Crooked Oak is only 97 pages long, including the illustrations - but the stories are always engaging and the range of authors is superb, so any reluctant reader can usually be tempted to finish one of these books!
This is a great addition to the Barrington Stoke list, and I hope that I am right in sensing a hint at the end of the book that we may be hearing more from Nancy, Pete and Krish in the not too distant future!
97 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+